Along with many other fans, my winter of Reds discontent reached new heights of frustration when news broke that the Milwaukee Brewers had completed a trade to acquire budding outfield superstar Christian Yelich from the Marlins.
My frustration wasn’t boiling over simply because the Brewers had succeeded where the Reds apparently had come up short. Multiple sources have reported the Marlins wanted Nick Senzel or Hunter Greene as the headliner in any deal which would have put Yelich into a Reds uniform. The Reds reluctance to give up either of those prospects along with two or three other highly regarded prospects for a single player, even Yelich, is understandable.
No, my primary frustration is that, like the Cardinals, yet another team in the Reds division is doing what they need to do to improve while the Reds seemingly continue to sit on their hands through another off season. On the heels of four empty seasons allegedly spent rebuilding, what are the Reds waiting on? Here’s a possible explanation.
First and foremost, the Reds are waiting on development of their pitching. They appear committed to having a largely home grown starting pitching staff functioning at the MLB level before they take the deep dive into significant free agent signings or trade acquisitions to bolster their position player line up.
The good news is the Reds have more than a full rotation worth of highly-touted pitching prospects on the cusp looking to join Luis Castillo and any of the injury-plagued trio of Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, and Brandon Finnegan who can get healthy. The less happy news is that over the last two seasons, the Reds have had very little success in finishing the development of their home grown pitching prospects. How this group performs in 2018 will go a long way toward determining whether next off season or perhaps even later is the year the Reds are finally ready to make bold off season moves.
Another factor which may be holding the Reds back is the current development level of the projected high-ceiling prospects in their minor league system. Given the current ages or service time levels of multiple position players on the Reds MLB roster, several current top-tier minor league prospects are going to be key pieces either on the field for the Reds or in deals to bring needed MLB level talent to the team. While in recent weeks both Baseball America and ESPN have ranked the Reds farm system in their top 10, much of the best Reds minor league positional talent will be at class AA or lower when the 2018 season begins. Have look at Doug Gray’s Reds top prospect list or the MLB.com top Reds prospects list.
Second baseman Shed Long had an injury-abbreviated look at class AA in 2017 and is likely to start the 2018 season back at AA. Potential MLB center fielders Taylor Trammell and Jose Siri both figure to start 2018 at class A+. Catcher Tyler Stephenson hopes to make it to A+ this year after two injury plagued seasons at class A. Two highly-regarded shortstop prospects, Jose I. Garcia and Jeter Downs, are further down the chain. The Reds need to see more of all these players before deciding where and how they fit into the team future. To trade any of them now is to risk trading the wrong man and getting less value for him to boot in the process.
Rationalizing my way through this process has gotten me back to even-keel on the Reds. I still don’t like that they’ve done nothing this off season to start picking up additional talent for current MLB performers who almost certainly are not part of a successful Reds future. It would be even better if the Reds were proactively positioning themselves for the future since that would indicate the team thought it was coming sooner rather than later. But worst of all, I detest the feeling of waiting till next year before this year has officially started.